Saturday, Mar 16 12:29pm
AUTHOR: Simon Chapman

Puncture puts Brendon Hartley on the back foot

SMP Racing recruit Brendon Hartley lies fourth overall with 100 laps done and 168 to go at the 1000 Miles of Sebring.


Toyota Gazoo Racing led the opening stanza of the race as Fernando Alonso and Kamui Kobayashi scythed their way through the field. The opening laps of the race were relatively uneventful, though Alonso did use a bit of the grass verge to make some early passes on lapped traffic.


Drama struck on lap 40 when Hartley’s co-driver Vitaly Petrov suffered a puncture on the run down to Turn 7. The Russian cruised back to pit lane at pedestrian pace to avoid damaging the car, but by the time Mikhail Aleshin took the reigns and returned to the race they’d lost several laps.


Come lap 64, the first safety car came out when Hartley’s SMP Racing teammate Egor Orudzhev crashed at the high-speed Turn 1. The front end suffered significant damage and was pulled behind the wall.


Aleshin pitted during the second Full Course Yellow due to debris on track to be be replaced by Hartley in the BR Engineering BR 1 AER. With 100 laps complete the team lie six laps off the lead, which is still held by Toyota Gazoo Racing.


While Toyota led the way with the no.8 and no.7 TS050 Hybrid duo at the forefront, the privateer entries encountered their own issues. The no.1 Gibson-powered Rebellion Racing R13 suffered issues and had to park in the pit lane briefly while the team went to work on it.


Hartley sits three laps back of the third placed no.3 Rebellion Racing R13. The sun has begun to set on Sebring and Hartley will try to claw back time to get onto the podium. 


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